Socio-economic determinants of livestock management strategies at the interface of rural and protected areas: A case of Hwange communal area, Ward 15
Moyo, Vuyisile Precious
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Livestock is key to the wellbeing of rural communities even those at the periphery of Protected Areas.Limited grazing opportunities in Hwange rural land drive people to exploit resources in bordering Hwange National Park and Sikumi Forest. Men drive domestic animals such as cattle into the Park. It is the aim of this study to understand decision-making processes behind driving cattle into the Protected Areas and to understand socio economic determinants of livestock management at the periphery of Protected Areas. Study site villages included Magoli, Mabale, Chezhou, Dingane and Sialwindi. A control study site was chosen in Kamativi to have a comparison of the management strategies with emphasis on opportunities and constraints. A combination ofboth quantitative and qualitative approaches was used in the study. A structured questionnaire was administered to solicit perceptions of cattle owners, (N=114). Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant Interviews were conducted to gain further insights on decision making and implications thereof. Results from this study show that men are favorites when it comes to cattle ownership and are the main decision makers on when and where to drive their cattle, when to buy or sell livestock and so on. Social and cultural practises are longer dominant because most farmers are now Christians and no longer have faith in traditional beliefs. It was proven advantageous staying next to a protected area as farmers will have access to forage and water sources inside the park but there are economic impacts associated with that. However, as much as farmers may enjoy access into the Protected Areas, they tend to face many constraints. Constraints include transmission of diseases from wildlife, predation, lack of immediate efficient markets to sell livestock and debasing veterinary services that has contributed to the dwindling livelihoods and numbers of livestock kept. It is therefore recommended that men, who are mostly owners of cattle be invited as stakeholders in meetings to do with negotiations of coexistence of cattle and wildlife at the periphery of Protected Areas. Research specialist and extension services are required to enlighten farmers on the dangers of driving cattle inside the park and how this will affect their livelihoods in the long run.